Pubdate: Tue, 03 Jan 2006
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Times Colonist
Author: Rob Shaw
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


Project Depends On Police, Health Officials, Politicians And One 
Leader Who Opposes The Idea

The Safe Injection Players:

Victoria's mayor has promised that a safe injection site will become 
a reality in 2006.

But before Victoria can swing open the doors of its own facility -- 
becoming only the second city in North America to do so -- a number 
of key people must be on-side with their support.

Below is a description of who is involved, what their 
responsibilities are, and how they feel about safe injection, as 
collected in interviews with the Times Colonist in the past two months.

Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe

Responsibility: Mayor and council approve the injection site 
location, and apply as a city for a legal exemption on drug use, 
necessary to run the site, from the federal government.

Position: In favour. Ran for re-election on promises of harm 
reduction. Will file a site application to the federal government in 
2006, he said.

Quote: "There is a time where you have to just go out there and say 
this is the right thing for the community, and just do it. I think 
that time will come probably sometime in [2006] where we will have 
the support of VIHA [Vancouver Island Health Authority] as well as 
support from the federal government."

"What you will find out here though is this: Everybody you talk to at 
this point will support harm reduction, and they may support a safe 
injection site. But try finding a location. That's where the 
difficulty will be."

Victoria Police Chief Paul Battershill

Responsibility: Provincial and federal governments expect a local 
police endorsement of a safe injection site.

Position: In favour. Would prefer

it was located a block or two outside the downtown core. Additional 
police officers would not be needed to police the site or monitor its 
users, but Battershill would appoint a liaison officer.

Quote: "We are supportive of the idea and we think it makes sense."

Vancouver Island Health Authority Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. 
Richard Stanwick

Responsibility: VIHA sets the budget and potentially pays the bills 
for a safe injection site. Vancouver's downtown east side safe 
injection site, Insite, is funded by VIHA's mainland counterpart, the 
Coastal Health Authority.

Position: In favour. Currently working on a business plan for safe 
injection. VIHA board members must decide the size, services, and 
medical facilities that accompany a site.

Quote: "The amount of support is really very impressive. But the 
devil is in the details. How are we going to bundle this with other 
services? Because the province doesn't want to see a stand-alone 
supervised consumption site, it has to be part of a larger strategy."

B.C. Health Minister George Abbott

Responsibility: Province provides health care money to VIHA to run a 
safe injection site.

Position: Wants to see more research from the Vancouver site. The 
issue of available provincial money for VIHA to run a Victoria site 
is "if an issue at all, a very minor issue."

Quote: "If we see an application ... that has the clear unequivocal 
support of the municipality, of the city police, and of the regional 
health authority [VIHA], I certainly would give it serious consideration."

Federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh

Responsibility: Health Canada, if run by a re-elected Liberal 
government, must grant Victoria's site a key exemption from the 
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The legal exemption allows drug 
use on the site, without the threat of police interference. Also, in 
the case of Insite in Vancouver, Health Canada provides federal money 
for research reports.

Position: In favour of a safe injection site in Victoria, and other cities.

Quote: "I believe if you have a significant drug problem, which I 
think Victoria has, harm reduction approaches would be helpful. And a 
safe injection site, if asked for by the local community and the 
province, I would certainly support."

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper

Responsibility: Health Canada, if run by a Conservative government 
after the Jan. 23, 2006 federal election, would be asked to approve 
the same exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Position: Not in favour. Conservatives would not grant legal 
exemptions for cities such as Victoria, and could move to shut down 
Vancouver's two existing safe injection sites, Harper has said.

Quote: "We, as a government, will not use taxpayers' money to fund drug use."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman